Instructional Design Models

Instructional Design Models

There is no end to the making of instructional design models. There are new ones being invented literally every day. Therefore, it should be stated here unequivocally that there is no one best or correct model. Rigid adherence to any particular methodology would be self-defeating. Models are rules of thumb (heuristics), guidelines to help one through a process, and as such they should be customized to the business situation at hand and taken in that spirit.

There are two types of models for the design and development of instructional systems, the first being the traditional ADDIE model developed for classroom design, the second being an expanded version, tailored specifically for blended or e-learning environments. I developed the latter model, Dimension 7, myself and have used it successfully on implementations for several years now. Because the Web is a dynamic environment, it requires a substantially different model from the classroom.

The Classroom Model: Addie

Even though ADDIE has been in use for over a half century, it still provides a solid and useful model for building classroom training. It consists of the following five straightforward steps. (These will be defined in more detail in the subsequent section on Dimension 7.)

  1. Analysis

  2. Design

  3. Development

  4. Implementation

  5. Evaluation

The Web Model: Dimension 7

The Web launched the world's first truly dynamic learning environment, enabling continuous learning systems in which courses could be centrally upgraded on the fly. Building courseware for the Web became not a one-time event, but a continuous process. Thus the structure of the Dimension 7 model for the Web is essentially circular—one long, continuous loop (see Figure 1). One can, as with ADDIE, expand, telescope, or modify any one of the seven steps involved.

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Figure 1: The Web Model— Dimension 7— Designing and Developing a Course or Curriculum.

1. Discovery Phase (Analysis)

The discovery phase of instructional design equates to the analysis phase of ADDIE. It consists of evidence-gathering: posing questions, running needs analyses, and requesting documents. The instructional designer typically conducts this phase of the project, doing the interviews and carrying out the research and analysis. Typical issues addressed in this phase are:

  • Current business problem

  • Future business goal

  • Gap between current and desired performance

  • Profile of target audience

  • Analysis of job being performed

  • Identification of the training solution

  • Identification of delivery medium (classroom, Web, etc.) and infrastructure considerations

  • Identification of team members and resources

  • Budget and timeline constraints

  • Measurement of success for the training

The product of the discovery phase is an analysis report or "scoping" document, a brief summary document that sizes the problem and integrates the findings. It is generally submitted to management for financial approval of the project. This scoping document also identifies any potential political hurdles or technological constraints. Because it sets the stage and expectations for the entire project, this document must be attended to with care and precision.

See also Needs Assessment Performance Improvement and Performance Consulting

2. Design Phase

The design phase consists of outlining the course and includes two subphases: an initial broad outline called the "high-level" design, and a more specific one called the "detailed" design document. Again, this phase is carried out by the instructional designer or writer on the project, in conjunction with the rest of the team, which might include the subject matter expert, a representative from the target audience, and a project manager.

  • High-Level Design. Sometimes called macro-design, this phase produces an outline that gives a bird's eye view of the course, including business goals, learning objectives, target audience, chief topics, types of tests or certifications involved, timeline, and budget. This outline adds more detail now that the budget and timeline have been approved, and fine-tunes the scoping document accordingly.

  • Detailed-Level Design. Sometimes called micro-design, this phase produces an outline that adds detailed content to the previous outline's skeletal structure. Topics are broken out into subtopics (units, lessons, modules), learning objectives into sub-objectives (knowledge, skills, and attitudes), and tests into subtests. All components are then properly sequenced together and related to the learning objectives or outcomes. This dual process of decomposition and re-linking is referred to as the "chunking and sequencing" of the material.

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Top Down and Bottom Up: Instructional Design as Database Design

Content designing a course is very similar to database design, for both jobs demand that the designer be an information architect. Experienced instructional designers, for instance, much like database designers, often employ a dual design strategy: they work simultaneously "top down" from the overall course outline (broad generalities) and "bottom up" from the individual user's point of view (concrete specifics). In instructional design circles this is sometimes called "reverse" design—because one is simultaneously designing from the detailed level view of the end-user as well as from the high-level view of the major course components. In this way one doesn't lose sight of the big picture OR the little one.

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3. Demo Phase (Prototyping)

This phase, sometimes called rapid or iterative (repeated) prototyping, is more frequently used for software projects than for classrooms. It test-drives the detailed designs of the previous stage by building working prototypes. Because of the high expense of developing software, this step amounts to a cost-containment strategy.

4. Development Phase

The development phase consists of writing the course if it is classroom training, or of scripting, graphic-designing, and programming if it is a Web course. Because of the sizable differences at this stage depending upon the particular medium being employed (hardcopy, audio, video, etc.), we will use generic terms to designate the subphases of this stage:

  • Alpha Version: First draft

  • Beta Version: Second draft

  • Testing: Quality assurance testing, validation of the course and any accompanying materials

  • Pilot: Pilot-testing the course; in the case of classrooms, this can include train-the-trainer sessions

  • Final: Final revision and sign-off

A word about team involvement during this phase. Classroom courses are developed by a professional writer, who is sometimes the same person as the instructional designer. In the case of Web courses, development is carried out by a team consisting of a writer, an HTML programmer, a graphics designer, and a database programmer. In the case of video, the team would consist of a writer, production crew (shooting), and post-production staff (editing).

5. Deployment Phase (Implementation)

This phase, consisting of duplication and distribution (classroom) or installing and configuring (Web), designates the launch or deployment of the course—to classrooms, Webscreens, or video monitors. If software-based, this phase also includes putting into place all maintenance, systems administration, content monitoring, and tech support.

6. Determination Phase (Evaluation)

This phase evaluates the course. Despite its placement here as a single step, this process is actually continuous, weaving in and out of the project during Phases 3 to 5 and during the subsequent 7th phase. As we point out elsewhere, this phase actually consists of four separate levels or subphases of evaluation, namely:

  • Level 1: Evaluating the course (how to improve the course)

  • Level 2: Evaluating knowledge of what was taught (e.g., tests and certifications)

  • Level 3: Evaluating application of course to on-the-job (transfer to the real world)

  • Level 4: Evaluating financial impact of course on the business (ROI and bottom-line profit)

7. Duplication Phase (Applying What Was Learned to Future Courses and Updates)

The duplication phase applies what you learned on this project to future projects, duplicating lessons learned to other courses in the curriculum. This phase is added to the static ADDIE model because of the dynamic nature of the Web curriculum, the ease with which content can be centrally updated and redeployed virtually overnight. This final Phase 7 then flows back into Phase 1 again—"discovery" for the next update. The Web model thus constitutes one long feedback-and-feedforward loop.

See also Lessons Learned